Down the Coast (part 1)

I climb the hill above Berkeley and eat an orange.  At the top, past the UC Botanical Gardens, I reach the peak overlooking Berkeley and Oakland and San Francisco.  I can see the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun splashes into the Bay.  I just finished reading Dharma Bums.  I bet Kerouac has been here.  I fold down the back seats and sleep through thunder and heavy rain as patches of clouds drift by and obscure or reveal the twinkling city lights below.

Sun rise, I rise, descend the hill and back through Berkeley streets down Telegraph Road and past People’s Park where I see people living in the trees.  Across the Bay Bridge, the sun hangs low just beneath a blanket of gloom, orange ricocheting against the choppy gray Bay water.  Back into SF for a delightful vegetarian lunch with Erica involving pesto and tomato and mozzarella and some great conversation.  This is when I drove down to Palo Alto to visit Kathi and Karen.

*          *          *

And then I continue south down Highway 1.  Kenza calls as I glide through the cliffs.  As much as I disparage technology, our lovely phones enable us to chat from 6000 miles away.

Along an open stretch of road cutting through fields, I see a guy sitting on a pack with his thumb up.  I sigh as I fly past.  Two minutes later I pull over and sit in the car, debating with myself.  I decide to turn around and drive past again, just to get a better look at the guy.  He’s still there as I go by.  I whiz past, and then I turn back around.  I really can’t tell.  I decide to pull over and tell him that I can’t offer him a ride, but I’ve got some oranges and some water if he wants any.

I pull over a few feet ahead of his pack, and I climb out of my car.  He’s on the phone as I approach.  “Hang on, mom—” he says.  He smiles and looks at me hopefully.  It turns out that this guy is on his way down from Santa Cruz.  He’s been out here for six hours.  He is trying to get down to San Luis Obispo to see his mom for the holidays.  I see a guitar lying on the ground next to his pack, and I make a snap decision and invite him into the car.  He puts the phone back up to his ear.  “Never mind, Mom.  I got a ride!  I’ll call you in a little while.”  He only asks me to take him five miles down to a junction that will lead to Salinas, from where he can pick up the 101.

His name is Walt.  As we drive, he thanks me over and over again.  He was about to give up.  He was just calling his mom to say that he didn’t think he would be able to make it home for Christmas.  I give him a paper bag with some fruit and granola bars, and he tells me about his situation.  He’s been struggling with health problems for the last year, and expensive treatments have forced him out of his home, his car, and most of his possessions.  He’s a musician, but he had to sell all of his gear except this one guitar.  This guy has a deep sadness about him.  He talks about the friends he had up in Santa Cruz, the buddies he used to play music with.  But when he got sick, suddenly there was nobody there to take care of him.

We reach the intersection, and I tell him that I’ll just take him the additional 10 miles to the 101 entrance.  His smile makes the detour way more than worthwhile.

When I drop him off at the freeway and get out of the car to help him remove his bag and guitar from the backseat, he hugs me for a long time.  “Thank you so much, man.  This is just what I needed.”  I pull out a marker from my bag and help him make a sign he can hold up to let people know he’s just trying to get home.

*          *          *

30 minutes later I am pulling into Monterey.  I’ve never been here, but I’ve seen pictures of this place and when I was little, I fell in love with a videotaped documentary about the aquarium.  I wander through the downtown area and sit on the curb with my guitar.  I don’t even play songs—I just lean back against a wall and let my fingers do whatever they will.  After about half an hour, I have enough money to buy a cheap dinner or an expensive cup of coffee.

I head to the other side of town when the afternoon grows late.  I find the bench that was made for me; rocky coast, crashing waves, tidepools, shrieking seagulls, salty scent, ocean sunset colors.  Is it possible for a place to be home just because you’ve dreamed about it for so long?  The sky melts into the sea and I feel home right now.

I decide to check into a hostel for the first time on this trip.  I could use a hot shower and a bed and I’m hoping to meet some fellow travelers.  Nobody else is there when I arrive, but the receptionist tells me there will be ten others staying the night.  I grab my bag and walk down the street towards a café where I will do some artwork on the side of a new pair of shoes I picked up at a thrift store in Santa Cruz.

I walk into Starbucks and look around as the barista greets me.  I tell her that this is the coziest Starbucks I’ve ever been in, which is true, and she is touched and offers me a free coffee.  A few people actually come up to me as I draw and ask about the shoes.  I listen to music, sketch, write, and people watch, and I can feel myself slowing down.  I have nowhere to be for hours.  I’m on my own time now.

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7 Responses to Down the Coast (part 1)

  1. Karen says:

    Sound awesome Dave….you are playing a great karma forward. Where are you now?? Did you drive down Hwy 1? I’m in San Diego so let me know if you are here. Hope you are having a fun and safe adventure. Hugs to you and stay safe. Karen

    • Dave Korn says:

      Karen, I’m in L.A. right now… How long do you plan to stay down in San Diego?? I may be down there in a week or so. Thank you again for everything, and I’ll talk to you soon!

  2. Kathi says:

    I know that “snap decision” feeling and I truly understand why you paid the “smile” forward. It made me smile – again. I hope your Christmas was warm and that you are working your way towards friends. Loved seeing you and look forward to next time. Keep us posted. Stay safe, happy and healthy. A warm New Year hug to you from Minden. Kathi

    • Dave Korn says:

      =) well of course! i actually told him quite a bit about you and a few others from my experience as we drove, because he couldn’t understand how i was willing to go out of my way to help him out. my christmas was lovely – i should have some writing up about it today or tomorrow. can’t wait to see you again!

  3. drea says:

    I’m not at all surprised to see the kindness come full circle- it’s almost your duty to do so, hitcher 😉 especially after hearing “mom”
    it makes me smile to hear of you finding a slice of home along the way- that’s what this journey is seeking after all.
    it’s kinda odd to be catching up on posts as I’ve been spending time with family and friends instead of technology, so it’s delightful to see others’ input (especially since they are your new friends) but kind of distracting! haha I’ve been spoiled with ‘first comment’ privilege

  4. Kenza says:

    DAAAAVE. thanks for not hating fones so you and i can have our awesome talks. I miss your face so much, I must have called u again after this, bc you told me the hitchhiker story in another one of our convos…I MISS YOU. I’m going through and reading every post in this blog cuz it makes me feel closer to you, so expect more comments.

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